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Oracle CEO, Group Are Eyeing Apple

March 28, 1997|From Times Wire Services

Oracle Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Larry Ellison on Thursday confirmed that he has formed an investor group that may try to take control of ailing Apple Computer Inc.

Apple shares rose 11% after the San Jose Mercury News reported that Ellison and his group of unidentified investors would decide within weeks whether to make the bid.

Ellison has set up an e-mail address to take comments on whether Apple could benefit from new management and what the company's top priority should be if Ellison gains control. The address is:

Ellison is acting independently of Redwood Shores, Calif., software maker Oracle, according to a statement released by Oracle's public relations firm.

Apple shares rose $1.875 to close at $18.625 in Nasdaq trading. It was the company's biggest one-day percentage gain since July.

Apple's outstanding stock is worth about $2.3 billion, which means Ellison and his partners would have to spend more than $1 billion to buy a controlling interest in the Cupertino, Calif.-based company.

Ellison has long been a fan of Apple's computers, and Oracle has previously considered buying the company, partly to prevent Microsoft Corp. from dominating the computer industry.

Ellison's close friend and Apple founder Steve Jobs isn't involved in the possible acquisition, the Mercury News reported.

Jobs returned to the company in a part-time advisory role in December, when Apple bought his Next Software Inc. as the basis for a new operating system.

Jobs couldn't be reached to comment Thursday and Ellison couldn't be reached for further comment. A spokeswoman said Apple had no comment.

Wall Street analysts said they doubt Ellison would actually attempt to buy Apple, because he has not taken any concrete steps in the two years in which he has expressed an interest.

"The deal doesn't make sense for [any outside investor] to take him up on it," said David Wu, analyst at investment bank ABN Ambro Chicago Corp.

Still, Ellison's comments should not be dismissed, some analysts said.

Ellison, the third-richest software tycoon behind Microsoft co-founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen, has said in recent interviews that he is intent on slowing Microsoft's dominance of the software industry. Apple, with its huge following of Macintosh fans, could be a key weapon.

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